Recipe: Sarah’s Umami Roast

This weekend is a blur of activities.  Baby showers, birthday parties, house projects and design clients filled up my day.  Collectively, everything I have consumed from Friday night through Sunday night came from (A) Starbucks, (B) Trader Joe’s and (C) Walgreens.  Fortunately, I received an email from my friend and fellow blogger Sarah S. about the fantastic dinner she made on Saturday night for her family.  I was simply impressed that Sarah cooks on a Saturday and two that she cooked a roast…neither of which I have done in a long time.  Combine it with the fact that the recipe Sarah created is super easy and according to her family, super delicious to boot.  I can say this with 100% conviction that if Sarah’s family consisting of several finicky toddlers and adolescent eaters declared this recipe a winner, then I am positive you will too!  In any case, I will let Sarah tell you about this winner of a recipe……

How delightful the smell of sautéing onions and garlic is on a cold Saturday afternoon.  This beef roast is something you can start right after lunch time and have ready for a 7:00 dinner with family and friends. Set the table with something rustic and fun, wear lounge clothes whose best quality is their comfort (okay, and there is some seriously cute loungewear), put on some classic R&B (really, think 1960’s and 70’s) and open a nice red wine that is full-bodied and still sweet.

Add to that environment this umami roast, and you have a wonderful combination.  Umami refers to the flavor.  It is one of the basic tastes and refers to the meaty savoriness in a dish.  This combination of the creamy potatoes, slightly rich gravy, and tender meaty beef roast touches directly on the umami taste that brings to mind midwest comfort food at its best.

This is not a refined roast that is sliced to serve.  It falls apart at the touch of a fork.  The vegetables should retain their form and presence but are soft enough to slice through with just the tines.


Saturday Afternoon Umami Beef Roast with Mashed Potatoes


Finished Umami Roast....


3-3.5 lb organic beef chuck roast (1/2 lb per person should leave a bit of leftovers)

1 Vidalia onion, rough sliced

2 garlic cloves, chopped

Approximately 18-24 baby carrots, whole

3 stalks of celery, 2 inch pieces.  Finely chop the rinsed leaves and use.

1 Quart  mixed vegetable and beef base/ broth/ or any variation thereof

Olive Oil

Kosher Salt and Fresh Pepper

1 Bay Leaf

dash nutmeg

1/2 tsp cumin

1/4 tsp dried thyme

1/4 tsp dried rosemary

Gravy (recipe follows)

Served with Yukon Gold Mashed Potatoes (recipe follows)


To Cook the Roast


Roast Ingredients


Remove roast from refrigerator at least 30 minutes prior to cooking.  Bringing it to room temperature will help create a tender roast.  Rinse, pat dry, sprinkle with salt and pepper on both sides and set to the side.

Saute onion and garlic in 1 Tbsp olive oil (dutch oven works great) on medium until slightly translucent.  Season with sprinkling of kosher salt and pepper.  (I season each layer of ingredients for the best flavor.)  Turn heat to Medium/ Medium High.  Move onions to the side of the pot and add roast.  Brown on each side approximately 4-5 minutes.

Add herbs to stock, and add stock to pot, just barely covering the roast.  Check for necessary salt.  Turn heat to Low, cover and cook for 4-5 hours. This recipe can also go in the oven on 275 degrees.

After cooking roast for 4-5 hours, add chopped vegetables, season, check fluid levels to barely cover all vegetables, cover, and cook for 1 hour.  Vegetables should be cooked through without being mushy.  Remove bay leaf before serving.


Juice from Roast (visible fat skimmed off)

1/3 C flour

1 Tbsp half n half

Salt and Pepper to taste

Remove vegetables and meat, cover with foil and set to the side or in warm oven.  Turn the heat up to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes.  Remove 1/2 Cup of liquid and put in mixing bowl.  Add flour and whisk.  Add more liquid to thin it out.  (You are making a slurry).  Feel free to substitute cornstarch if that is your preference.

Whisk slurry to juices on medium heat. Add another sprinkling of rosemary if you want to strengthen the flavor.   Cook flour through, whisking every minute or so, approximately 15 minutes, and you will see it thicken slightly.  This is not a thick cream-style gravy.  It is a drizzling gravy to add moisture and flavor, and is intended to complement the meat and potatoes without drowning.  The more you cook it, the richer the gravy.  If you want to extend this out to 20 or 30 minutes, be my guest.  Season with salt and pepper.

Whisk in half n half and reduce heat to low.  Cook for just a few minutes.  Check seasoning.

Mashed Yukon Gold Potatoes

5 lb bag of potatoes

1 C half n half (1 and 1/2 if you like them looser)

3/4 Stick of Butter (6 Tbsp)


Remove peel and chop potatoes.  Boil for approximately 20 minutes.  Strain.

Heat half n half and butter on low, just until heated through.

Add potatoes to a ricer if you have it, or whip them with a mixer if you don’t.  If you use a ricer, the potatoes will release less starch and you will get a pure potato flavor without starchiness. That combination of butter, half n half and the non-starchy potatoes is blissful.

Add half n half, butter, salt.  Mix together with a wooden spoon until just blended.

To Serve

Roast will pull apart with a fork.  A long fish plate works great for serving.  Add beef to center 2/3 of the plate, add vegetables to the ends.  Serve with a gravy boat of gravy and a bowl of potatoes.  This is the perfect meal to place on a buffet next to the table and allow the guests to serve themselves.  I would serve it with fresh-from-the-oven bread (maybe a rosemary garlic) with some softened butter.

A glass of red wine evens this out completely, and the only thing that would make it better is a rustic vanilla ice cream with a fresh caramel sauce or blueberry compote.  Mmmmm.  Delightful.

And don’t forget to use the leftover gravy and meat as a stew base.  Truly great.

Based on a 5 spoon scoring system:

Complexity: 3.5 spoons

Difficulty: 2 spoons

Flavor: 5 spoons

A big thanks to Sarah for sharing this recipe and on a side note, I adore her spoon rating system!

The Journey Is At Times More Important Than The Outcome….

Last night’s class opened up a can of “whoop a**” on me.  From the knife cuts (fluted mushrooms and tourne potatoes), the dishes we cooked for presentation (glazed beets, braised cabbage, duchesse potatoes) to kitchen clean-up (we stayed until 9:30pm cleaning) it was a stressful situation (in my opinion).  Over the last three months, I have had highs and lows in my affinity for culinary school and have  seriously doubted everything from my ability as a chef to my aptitude for remember information. My first day in this new course brought back all the feelings of inadequacy I felt the first time I stepped into the kitchen two months ago.

I have a tendency to psych myself out and to over-analyze situations — in essence, I scare the crap out of myself for no good reason.  This self-created anxiety is one of the issues I work with my counselor with because it tends to block progress in my case.  Modern psychology states that small amounts of stress are good for running at peak levels of productivity. I am unique that the thought of stress actually creates unhealthy amounts of stress.  I find it amusing that my classmates are always complimenting me on my calm demeanor in the kitchen.  It isn’t that I am calm at all — on the inside I am doing cartwheels but I know that if I don’t focus and try to control the internal chaos, it will have detrimental effects.  Once rolling, the stress compounds and that is when you find me a sweaty mess talking to myself in the corner or angrily yelling at my classmates over small things.  Neither is a good scenario, hence why I try hard to go in every day with a game plan and really not get too shaken up.

Because of this tendency, I often get lost in the moment.  For some that is a state they aspire to embrace but for myself it’s something I avoid. Many times in my life, I get caught up in the here and now, but never look at the path I am have or the journey as a whole.  As I get older, I am appreciating life as a whole rather than compartments. Yet, somehow this “whole perspective” is not translating to culinary school – this is a journey I need to remember because it has informed me about some much regarding myself. In life we can take many different roads, but those roads we take, well in particular, the road I have taken, I need to pay attention.  Yeah, sometimes we deviate or go off path – but that is the beauty of a well-lived life.

Last night, as I laid in bed exhausted, I thought of the poem by Robert Frost “The Road Not Taken”. I memorized it in elementary school for a contest and still remember it to this day, considering I can’t remember my Mom’s birthday, it’s no small feat.  Little did I know that some 20 plus years later, it would have such new meaning to me……

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth.

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same.

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

I Need to Watch Finding Nemo to Atone For My Sins Against Fish ……

Today is the last day of Fish Fabrication. I have tasted caviar, slaughtered countless squids, sliced my way through a school of mackerel and become Public Enemy #1 to rock cod.  I danced the tango with multiple bi-valves and sent many crabs & lobsters to a steamy death.  I smell like a fisherman.   I saw things that have made me swear off fish for a long time to come.  But I am done!

But honestly, lets go back to the horrible things we learned about fish.   For example, did you know that parasites, in particular worms, are a normal occurrence in many large fish such as swordfish?  And lets not forget the various illnesses you can get from seafood…..scrombroid, cigutera, and the various toxic fish poisons.  It  makes me think that Red Lobster could be the deadliest place on earth…..


Aka “The Fish Gaunlet of Death”


Aside from my fear of seafood, the fish fabrication class went much better than the meat fabrication course.  While we had the same instructor, this time around he definitely loosened up and I think in turn had a huge impact now only on the class but me personally.  I tend to clam up during stressful situations and with the mood being considerably lighter in the kitchen, I found myself much more relaxed and receptive to information in class.  I think everyone’s personalities really are starting to shine and it’s really great.

We basically cut and fabricated anything with gills in this course.  I got my hands on trout, skate, squid, clams, lobster and about 10 other things when it was all said and done.  It was an encyclopedic run through our world’s oceans and all that is fit to eat.  Since I rarely cooked with fish, seeing all the various kinds of seafood and how to prepare them was really interesting and a little intimidating, but I really enjoyed it.

Again, let me thank my team for an awesome class.  Without these all-stars, I really do think I would have had a harder time.  We stuck together, kept each other’s backs and in general were our own personal cheerleaders.  Each of them are true class acts.  Jed – your dry sense of humor always provided the perfect way to break an awkward moment.  Alex – you are a leader that motivates by example whether you know it or not.  Rob – thank you for keeping it real and never failing to make us laugh.  Gabe – while you deflated my ego once or twice, it was always to build me up.  Thank you for letting me look over your shoulder repeatedly and never letting the team get too full of themselves.

Here is a stroll down memory lane…….


Alex with a very tiny fillet I just cut....



My first victim....I called him Fred.

Tory hard at work removing fish cheeks.....


The remains of my mackerel......

Doling out our victims....


Shellfish Buffet....never want to shuck oysters again!

Variety of US and European caviars......

Caviar Parfait.....

Starchy deliciousness to put the caviar on.....

Octopus....which I realized has a great purple color and a horrible texture.....


Ok, I am off to take the final!  Wish me luck……